Only a year-and-a-half ago, Panama Papers published by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) shook the world as they revealed off-shore holdings and unlawful tradings of well-known personalities of the world. The consequences of the leaks include the disqualification of ex-Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and several other prosecutions around the globe.
Now in 2017, ICIJ has released another set of data which is being called “Paradise Papers”. 13.4 million documents are included in this leak, consisting of all the secret and shady businesses, financial affairs, and suspicious off-shore assets of prominent political players.
Paradise Papers 2017
Pakistan’s Prime Minister who served from 2004-2007, Shaukat Aziz, also worked as Pakistan’s finance minister for around 5 years. Before becoming a politician, he worked for Citibank. He was the director and had a shareholding in the Bahamas-registered Cititrust limited from 1997 to 1999.
After being appointed the finance minister in 1999, Shaukat Aziz created the Antarctic Trust, which was “constituted [in the United States] for the benefit of the Settler’s family,” – the family is his wife, three children, and a granddaughter.
According to the leaks, Shaukat Aziz did not disclose the existence of the Antarctic Trust in his financial records from 2003 until 2006 – these are the years when he was the finance minister and the Prime Minister of Pakistan. The pages further state that,
Appleby’s Bermuda office was the trust’s protector, acting as an independent overseer. In a 2012 internal memo, the law firm’s compliance officer noted that Aziz had been accused by the opposition of false declaration of assets, corruption, and misappropriation of funds. Three years later, in a database of high-risk clients, Appleby also noted that a Pakistani court had issued three arrest warrants against Aziz in relation to the killing of a local leader. In September 2015, Antarctic Trust was closed and the related file removed from one of Appleby’s internal databases. Aziz has dismissed both the accusations of graft and any association with the murder.
The Antarctic Trust, now closed, held most of Aziz’s assets earned when he worked at Citicorp and was created before he relocated to Pakistan to be appointed finance minister. The purpose was “to ensure that if he were to die, his assets would pass efficiently to his family,” Aziz’s lawyer told ICIJ. The law in Pakistan requires politicians to disclose their assets. Asked why Aziz’s asset declarations in Pakistan didn’t mention the Antarctic Trust, the lawyer told ICIJ that the “legal owner” of the trust was Citicorp Trust Delaware N.A., not Aziz and that Aziz and his family members paid all U.S. taxes they owed, the lawyer said.
Cititrust is an affiliate of Citicorp where Aziz was an executive, and managed his personal assets for many years, the lawyer said.
Umar Cheema, one of the journalists involved with ICIJ and these leaks, claims that as many as 135 Pakistanis have been named in the list including:
- Former chairman of National Insurance Corporation Limited Ayaz Khan Niazi,
- Sadruddin Hashwani,
- Mian Mansha, a successful bidder of Direct to Home (DTH) license, owner of Nishat Group
- Zaheeruddin, owner of Soneri Bank Nooruddin Feerasta,
- Chairman of Dawood Hercules Corporation Hussain Dawood
- and many others
ICIJ is yet to launch a search facility on their website which will enable everyone to look for the 135 or so Pakistani nationals in the list. For now, Umar Cheema is the only source for the Pakistani names mentioned in the list.
Other Notable Mentions from Around the World
13 members from Trump’s cabinet are part of the list. Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, and Commerce Secretary, Wilbur Louis Ross Jr, are all included in the leaks. Donald Trump’s Secretary, Wilbur Louis Ross Jr, apparently, had business ties and connections to Russian companies.
Others in the list include:
- The Queen of England, Queen Elizabeth II,
- Queen of Jordan,
- Presidents of Ukraine, Columbia, Liberia,
- Former Austrian chancellor,
- Australia’s Prime Minister,
- Turkish Prime Minister’s two sons,
- Finance and agriculture ministers of Brazil,
- Some parliamentarians of Iraq, Iran and Ukraine,
- Former presidents of Ghana,
- Officials from Kazakhstan’s oil ministry,
- Minister from Uganda,
- Ex-presidents from Indonesia,
- Former prime minister of Japan,
- Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s cousin,
- Prince Hammad bin Jassim bin Jaber al-Thani from Qatar,
- Qatar’s Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani,
- Finance minister of Qatar Ali Shareef al-Emadi,
- UAE’s two prominent figures, King of Saudi Arabia, Muhammad bin Nayef, Saud bin Fahd bin Abdel Aziz al-Saud, King Fahd’s wife Al Jawhara bint Ibrahim Al Ibrahim.
714 Indians and famous singers like Madonna and Bono were a part of this list.
Facebook and Twitter have received huge sums in investment from the Russian government. They have also been accused of spreading false news which helped cause deceit in the presidential elections of the United States.
Multinational conglomerates including Apple, Uber, Nike, Botox etc have undisclosed tax avoidance schemes transferring profits into offshore accounts – according to the Paradise Paper leaks.